The Primrose Line – Episode 20

Illustration by Ged Fay

Jim pulled up at Bluebell Cottage and got out of his car. Retirement, so far, had been hectic. He had one real home and two potential others, yet had never felt more nomadic.

He leaned against a wooden fence post that instantly broke and nearly sent him sprawling.

He smiled ruefully. Where would fence replacement come on his list?

He went inside and started opening windows. The spring-like air that wafted in lifted his spirits.

If he stayed focused, the renovations might not take long and would give him that breathing space to let his emotions settle down. He just had to be guided by his old ally, logic.

A tap on the window made him jump. It was Nicola, and logic went out of that same window.

“Where on earth –?”

“Sorry if I startled you. I came by bike.”

“A bike?”

“Yep. I don’t have a car. So there could be a problem with tools.”

“You can use mine.”

“You have tools? I’m surprised.”

“My car, I mean.”

“Oh. Shall we talk at the window, or shall I come in, or will you come out?”

Jim chuckled as another memory reminded him of her directness.

“I’ll come out.”

He took a deep breath as he approached her. It was now or never. They had to get their relationship clarified so that there could be no misunderstanding.

The lunch that had lingered a little too long the other day had been a mistake.

“Shall we walk and talk?”

“Before we do anything, Jim, we need to get some boundaries established.”

Jim looked at the fence he had just broken.

“I mean between us.”

He knew what she’d meant, but he needed to keep this conversation light.

Eye on the ball, Connaught, he told himself. Before a coincidental meeting becomes much, much more.

Nicola continued.

“We covered a lot of ground the other day – old times and all that.”

“We did.”

“We know each other’s history and our hopes for the future: me in Canada, you in Switzerland.”

Was he imagining it or was she beating him to the finish line? He said nothing.

“It would be unwise to let any distractions get in the way, especially those of an emotional kind.

“You had a happy marriage and I respect what you said at lunch, that you wouldn’t do anything to compromise the memory of your past happiness.

“My marriage holds a different set of memories. I vowed when David’s father and I parted that I’d never involve myself in any serious relationship again.”

Jim looked away. It wasn’t his speech, but it would serve the purpose.

What he couldn’t understand was why he didn’t feel good about it, when she was telling him what he wanted to hear.

He felt confused. He needed to speak now.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.